The largest of all terriers, the English breed called the Airedale is usually a healthy dog. Known as the King of Terriers, this hardy dog might be susceptible to certain diseases affecting large dogs, along with other issues of a genetic nature afflicting his breed.
According to the 2011 Airedale Terrier Club of America Health survey, cancer was the most common cause of death for the breed, although older dogs were most affected. Melanoma, a cancer of the skin, was the most frequently cited. Next were adenocarcinomas, or malignant internal tumors; hemangiosarcomas, cancer of the blood system; and lymphomas, cancer of the lymph tissue.
Airedales may have a genetic predisposition to cardiomyopathy, an overall term for diseases of the heart muscle. Another cardiac issue found in the breed is pulmonic stenosis, which causes leakage in the heart valve. Depending on its severity, pulmonic stenosis may either not bother your dog at all or kill him. Symptoms include lethargy, fainting, blue-hued gums and the accumulation of fluid in the stomach. In the latter case, your dog's abdomen will appear distended. Your vet can detect a heart murmur or an irregular heartbeat indicating possible pulmonic stenosis through a stethoscope, then makes an actual diagnosis via the results of your Airedale's X-rays or echocardiogram.
The Airedale Health Foundation reports that the breed is predisposed to various diseases of the colon and gastrointestinal system. Your Airedale may go through bouts of diarrhea or constipation, or you may notice bloody, mucusy feces. He may possess a sensitive stomach and throw up frequently. He also might eat stuff that's not good for him, usually things not found in any food families, such as plastic. Take your dog to the vet for a workup if he exhibits bowel or stomach issues. It may take some trial and error to arrive at the cause.
According to the Airedale Terrier Club of America Rescue and Adoption Committee, Airedales often have itchy skin. In canines, allergies often manifest themselves in skin reactions. If your dog's hair falls out or he is constantly scratching, he could be reacting to fleas (the easiest problem to solve), food, pollens, molds or any number of triggers. Or he may be suffering from hypothyroidism, a lack of the thyroid hormone. Thyroid supplementation alleviates this problem. Take your Airedale to the vet for testing to get at the root of the problem.
Like many large breeds, Airedales are prone to hip dysplasia, a malformation of the hip joint. This disease eventually causes lameness and other arthritic problems. Surgery may offer some relief for impaired dogs. Airedales may experience elbow dysplasia, a malformation of the joint that causes instability and early onset arthritis. Surgery is an option with this form of dysplasia. Spondylosis results in spinal column abnormalities, which cause pain and possible lameness.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.